Alex Baran
The Whole Note, Canada
September 2015

British pianist Stephen Hough has also released a selection of Grieg's Lyric Pieces, though considerably larger, numbering 27. Hough is twice the age of Perianes and so one immediately expects an interpretive approach that reflects both that experience and maturity. While these traits are certainly evident, what really emerges is the fact that Hough lives in a world of much wider dynamic energy where rubato and phrase end pull-backs are powerful devices that he uses most effectively. Erotikon demonstrates this best and shows that Hough’s boundaries for expressive devices are set at very generous distances. To Spring seems to disappear into an emotional void as he finishes the piece. Butterfly shows his remarkable and articulate dexterity. He plays Bell Ringing with a touch that never fully engages the percussive nature of the piano hammer, and thereby makes the strings speak with no audible beginning. His Little Bird characterization is brilliant for all its nervous energy. And his March of the Trolls is wild and threatening before it melts into the beauty of the mid-section theme. Here, as in many other instances, Hough is able to pull the main musical idea further forward, out of the surrounding harmonies, than most pianists care to do. It’s consistent with his assertive interpretive style and works very well.